So I am full bore in preparation for my two money league fantasy baseball drafts of which I am the two-time defending champion in both and no doubt I am covering all my bases; especially in one league where I am already down Adam Wainwright who was one of my keepers (should have kept Jon Lester damnit). One of my favorite targets both last season and this season is the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen who many compare to Carl Crawford or who in other words can contribute in all five ROTO categories. McCutchen certainly did his part last season with a .286 average, 16 home runs, and 33 steals. The rest of the fantasy baseball community is on board as McCutchen is being drafted as a top ten OF who is going on average in round 5 of drafts this spring. No doubt I was all on board for targeting McCutchen once again this season (I drafted him in both leagues last season) but than I started looking at the numbers a bit closely while also analyzing players who bring similar skills sets. What I found left me with the nagging question: Is Andrew McCutchen actually overvalued now? Before you start flooding my inbox with e-mails telling me how clueless I am, hear me out a bit and we will both decide for ourselves at the end of the post.
Right now the early word out of Pirates camp is that McCutchen will lead off with Jose Tabata in the number two hole. That right away was a disappointing bit of news as many assumes (me as well) that McCutchen would slide down to third in the order with Tabata leading off after he successfully showed he can handle that assignment as a rookie last season. That move would bring more RBI opportunities for McCutchen which was one category he sorely lacked in 2010 with only 56. Leading off in 2011 would once again leave him sorely lacking in RBI so that is a valid issue to concern yourself with.
Another aspect that worries me is the fact that McCutchen didn’t really show much growth from 2009 to 2010. His home run rate actually worsened last season as he hit only 16 in 570 at-bats. McCutchen will only be 25 this season so he surely will add strength and fill out his body as he matures but he really needs to hit the 20 home run mark this season to justify his draft spot which is anything but a given. Sure we put up with the fact that Crawford has never hit the 20 home run mark but what made it easy to digest were the 50-plus stolen base seasons he habitually supplied which McCutchen still has to prove he can do. Yes the 33 last season were great but after a hot April, he seemed to lose aggressiveness in this respect as the year went on. Also, the Pirates offense is one of the worst in the majors who really have only McCutchen, Tabata, and Pedro Alvarez who can help out. This could hurt his runs total while also impacting his average as teams can be more selective with pitching to him due to the fact they can wait for the rest of the limp lineup to get themselves out.
Finally, there are a few players who play the same position as McCutchen, who supply almost the same type of stats, and who come much cheaper in drafts. I am referencing guys like Shane Victorino, BJ Upton, Chris Young, and even Alex Rios. All of these guys are being drafted on average at least one round (Rios) or more (Victorino, Upton, and Young) after McCutchen and really can you honestly say their stat haul is any worse than what he can provide?
Looking back at all that I discussed here, you can make a valid argument that the potential attached to McCutchen has inflated his draft price to the point he might be overrated. Victorino, Young, Rios, and Upton are all proven guys who can give you pretty much the same stats while you fill out another position with the pick you needed for getting McCutchen. I wont hold it against anyone who decides to grab McCutchen this season as he still has a world of talent and ability but I actually think I will take a pass this season which is something I never thought I would say earlier this spring.